Career Paths You Can Take with a Physical Education Degree

by Ben Kissam

Do you feel called to educate others to live healthy lives through fitness? Do you feel called to coach others to enjoy athletic competition through sport participation? If so, pursuing a graduate physical education degree could be a great option for you.

Physical educators work on the front lines each day to help students stay healthy, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. With about 13.7 million overweight or obese children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these educators can play a key role in reversing the trend. Many also serve as leaders and change agents in their communities, whether as coaches, counselors, or managers in a variety of settings.

Here’s a look at the graduate physical education degree programs Azusa Pacific University offers, and the many careers your education could lead to.

MS in Physical Education

Earning a graduate physical education degree doesn’t mean you have to become a teacher. In fact, APU offers concentrations and specializations that allow you to tailor your skills and interests for careers in athletics, leadership, or counseling.

“APU’s graduate physical education programs are time-honored, with the first graduate physical curriculum offered approximately 50 years ago,” said Cindy Tanis, PhD, director of graduate physical education and an associate professor at Azusa Pacific. “The program has transitioned over time according to professional standards and credentials, becoming what is now the prestigious Master of Science in Physical Education.”

Non-teaching jobs you can find with an MS in Physical Education include:

  • Athletic coach
  • Health and wellness coordinator
  • High school/college athletic counselor
  • High school/college athletic director

You can even merge sports and business with APU’s sport management concentrations—a highly marketable distinction that can provide you the skills and insights needed to become a manager, PR professional, or even a sports entrepreneur.

“This program is thorough and well-rounded, leaving the graduate confident in their ability to be a difference-maker in their community and in the lives of those whom they serve,” said Kody Moffat, MS ’19, a professor and men’s water polo coach at Palomar College. “The master’s in physical education program at Azusa Pacific University equipped me with the knowledge, resources, network, and confidence to be successful as I continue to pursue teaching and coaching at the community college level.”

MA in Physical Education with Single Subject Teaching Credential

If you know academics is the career path you want to pursue, the single subject teaching credential at APU may be the path for you. This program equips students to teach at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

“The master’s degree program was a great source of information, and I still refer to some of the projects I did to help me now when I am teaching,” said Lani Ruh, ’17, a professor and water polo and swimming coach at Mt. San Antonio College. “I was able to get my dream career because of the help, support, and encouragement by those in the program! College is an important time of growing and learning in a young person’s life, and it is a blessing to be able to be a part of their journey.”

Those who successfully complete this program earn a 2042 Preliminary Single Subject Teaching Credential from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, meaning they can teach physical education in California.

Other jobs you can get with this degree include:

  • Adventure/outdoor educator
  • Athletic director
  • Coach
  • College professor
  • Fitness instructor
  • Health/wellness teacher

While a master’s degree isn’t required to teach physical education in K-12 settings, having one can set you apart from other candidates when you look for your first job. Plus, your salary will likely be higher than if you only have a bachelor’s degree.

MA in Physical Education with Adapted Physical Education Added Authorization

It might surprise you to learn that children and adults with disabilities are at the greatest risk for obesity, per the CDC, and health care costs for this demographic surpass $44 billion each year in America. If you want to serve this demographic in need of change agents—and challenge yourself professionally in the process—APU’s MA in Physical Education with Adapted Physical Education Added Authorization can help you do just that.

More specifically, the 15-unit Adapted Physical Education Added Authorization specialization allows you to develop the pedagogical abilities needed to instruct all students. In addition, you can learn how to assess and develop gross motor skill goals, write an Individualized Education Program (IEP), and learn how to impact students with physical and intellectual disabilities.

“You get to know your students at a more personable level, help them achieve their goals, advocate for their rights, and make a difference in their physical education,” said Margarita Pulido, MA ’19, an adapted physical education teacher in the Anaheim Elementary School District. “It is a career that requires you to think critically and outside the box, be creative and patient, and most importantly, have fun.”

Potential careers you could pursue with this degree and experience include:

  • Camp/activities program directo
  • College professorr
  • Special education lobbyist/activist
  • Special education teacher

As you can see, a physical education degree can be tailored to meet your individual career goals. “APU offers multiple options and emphases related to physical education to help students find the program that aligns with their career path,” said Tanis. When deciding which path to pursue, Tanis recommends asking questions such as: Is the program long-standing and reputable? Is it accredited? Does the program have professors trained in physical education? And if you want to make a difference through physical education and sport, earning an advanced degree will set you up for career success from the start.

Curious to learn more about potential career paths and related degree programs at Azusa Pacific University? Explore APU’s graduate programs in physical education to discover additional insights.